[318] {362}





















[319] {363}





The expression "problem of God" is ambiguous. It can refer to any kind of problem which divinity poses for man. But it can also mean something prior and more radical: Is there a problem of God for philosophy? I am going to treat of this latter question; accordingly not of God as He is in Himself, but rather of the philosophical possibility of the problem of God.

The question dates from very early times. Philosophy, in fact, in every important period of its history has had to wrestle with proofs for the existence of God: the ontological argument, the celebrated Five Ways of St. Thomas, the argument a simultaneo of Duns Scotus, etc. But in the face of these attempts {364} to rationally prove the necessity of the existence of God, there have always been those who held such rational proofs to be insufficient, either because they regard the actual proofs offered as inconclusive, or because they reject a priori the possibility of any rational demonstration of matters concerning divinity. And so, either they have adopted an atheistic attitude, or they have judged that man possesses a sentiment of the Divine which varies from a beautiful religiosity to the so-called "vital exigencies," which will carry man to a belief in God despite an incapacity to know Him rationally.

But this question concerning the possibility of rationally proving the existence of God does not coincide formally with what I have termed "the problem of God." Rather, this latter problem [320] arises when one exposes the presupposition behind every "demonstration," which is the same as that behind every "negation," and even every "sentiment" of the existence of God.

On this point, the situation has an intimate analogy with that which came about in regard to the celebrated question of the existence of an "external" world. Idealism denies the existence of real things, that is, things external to the subject and independent of him. Man would be an entity enclosed within himself, who would have no need for an external reality; if such a reality were to exist, it would be unknowable. Realism, on the other hand, admits the existence of an external world, but in virtue of an argument founded on an evident "fact:" the interiority of the subject himself, and one or more rational principles, likewise evident, such as the principle of causality or another similar one. Nor have there been wanting those who consider this "critical" realism not only insufficient, but in fact useless, because they do not find adequate motivation for doubting "external" perception, which ostensibly manifests to us with immediate certainty the "fact" that there is something "external" to man. This is the so-called "ingenuous realism."

Now, these three attitudes all involve a common presupposition: that the existence or non-existence of an external world is a "fact," either demonstrated, or immediate, or undemonstrated, or undemonstrable. Whatever may be the attitude one adopts, it always relates to a "fact." Idealism and critical realism {365} have in addition another supposition: that the existence of an "exterior" world is something "added" to the existence of the subject; "besides" the subject there exist things. The subject is what he is, in and for himself, and then—such is the opinion of critical realism—he needs to lay hold of an exterior world in order to be able to explain his own interior vicissitudes. Thus, the following are assumed:

1. That the existence of the exterior world is a "fact."

2. That it is a fact "added" to the facts of conscience.

These two suppositions are debatable to say the least. Is it true that the existence of the exterior world is something "added"? Is it true that it is a simple fact, including whatever one may wish, but when all is said and done, still a fact, nothing more? This removes the question to a higher plane: to the analysis of the very subjectivity of the subject. We have already seen how the being of the subject consists formally, in one of its dimensions, in lying [321] "open" to things. Accordingly, it is not that the subject exists and, "besides" him, there are things; but rather that being a subject "consists" in being open to things. The exteriority of the world is not a simple factum, but rather the formal ontological structure of the human subject, in virtue of which there could be things without men, but not men without things. And this state of affairs comes about not on account of any kind of necessity founded on the principle of causality, or even on account of any logical contradiction, implied in the concept of man; but rather on account of something more: because it would be a type of contra-being, or human contra-existence. The existence of an exterior world is not something which presents itself to man from the outside; on the contrary, it comes from within him. Idealism said something similar; but when it began to speak of "he himself," it meant that the exterior things are just a position of the subject. This is beside the mark; the "he himself" is not a being "enclosed" in oneself, but rather lying "open" to things; what the subject posits with this its "openness" is precisely the openness, and, therefore, the "exteriority" through which it is possible for there to be things "external" to the subject and "enter" (sit venia verbo) into him. This position is the very being of man. Without things, then, man would be nothing. In this his constitutive ontological nihility, there is implied the reality of things. Only then is there sense in asking in an individual case if each thing is or is not real. {366}

Contemporary philosophy has succeeded, at least, in posing the problem of the reality of things in these terms. These things of the world are neither "facts," nor simply add-ons, but rather a constitutivum formale and, accordingly, a necessarium of the human being qua human being.

Now, as for what touches upon God, it does not seem that the situation has improved significantly. Typically one takes as his point of departure the supposition that man and things are, provisionally, subsisting and substantive; so that if there is a God, He would be "besides" these subsisting things. Some then appeal to a rational demonstration; others to a blind sentiment. There are also those who regard the dispute as useless and pretend that it is an evident "fact," as is every fact (e.g. the ontologism of Rosmini and Hegelian idealism); and since this fact, which would be God, cannot be "juxtaposed" with anything, such an attitude conduces, in the final analysis, to pantheism. And all these attitudes presuppose: [322]

I. That the substantivity of things calls for a demonstration that "besides" them there exists a God.

2. That this existence is a factum (for the non-atheists), at least quoad nos, from out human point of view.

I said quoad nos. Demonstrations of the existence of God carefully distinguish between His existence quoad se, that is, in regard to what affects God Himself, and quoad nos. The limitation of human reason carries this necessary distinction along with it as a consequence, in virtue of which all knowledge of God is perforce "indirect." But in what this limitation consists, and above all, how this limitation (which is therefore something negative) acquires a positive meaning in order to make the knowledge of God possible and necessary is something which has scarcely been elucidated with sufficient precision. Those who do not admit any knowledge of God see in this limitation an open door to sentiment, to the irrational. So it seems as if the previous question were: which is the primary faculty for reaching God, knowledge or sentiment?

And this is precisely that which, as in the case of the reality of the external world, gives rise to the suspicion that these two suppositions are not well thought out: Is the existence of God quoad nos merely a factum? Is access to it {367} necessarily consequent upon the mode of being of human reason? Might not, perhaps, quoad nos be something constitutive of human reason? Is knowledge, sentiment, or any other "faculty" the organon for entering into "relation" with God? Might it not be that this latter is not the task of any "organon, " because the very being of man is contitutively a being in God? If so, what might this "in" signify? And in such case, what meaning does a demonstration of the existence of God have? Has it rendered such a demonstration superfluous or, on the contrary, might it not then and only then have shown, in a rigorous way, the conditions of the possibility and of the character of this demonstration.

The question about God is thus transformed back into one about man. And the philosophical possibility of the problem of God will consist in discovering the human dimension within which that question must be posed, or better, is already posed.


[320] {368}





Human existence, we are told today, is a reality which consists in finding itself among things and creating itself, taking care about them and indeed being dragged along by them. In this realizing of itself, human existence acquires its identity and its being; that is to say, in this self-realization human existence is what it is and how it is. Human existence is thrown among things, and in this being thrown it acquires the boldness of existing. The constitutive indigence of man, the fact that he is nothing without things and only exists for and with them, is a consequence of his being "thrown," of his radical ontological nihility.

But with this we have only scratched the surface; what is the relation of man with the totality of his existence? What is the character of his being "thrown" among things? Is it nothing but "finding oneself" existing? Is it only a "simple" finding oneself or is it something more? Might not his constitutive ontological nihility be something deeper and more radical yet?

I wish to make clear, before proceeding, the nature of these explications. In regard to the phenomenon of "being thrown," as well as the others to which I will make reference, it should be noted that these cannot be understood except in the analysis of existence itself. The entire meaning of what is going to follow consists in trying to make clear that human existence is not described with sufficient precision unless it is said that man finds himself existing. And in all of this bear in mind constantly the example (and it is nothing more than an example) of the reality of the exterior world, to which I alluded earlier.

For the time being, I would prefer to say that man finds himself, in some way, implanted in existence. And if we wish to avoid all complications, superfluous for the moment, let us say that {369} man finds himself implanted in being. Hence the word "existence" is, in fact, somewhat ambiguous. What do we mean by it? The manner in which man is? Then "existence" signified as [324] much the mode as the man existing; sistit extra causas, he is outside of the causes, which here are things. In this sense it would not be too inaccurate to say that to exist is to transcend, and in consequence, to live. Very well. But is man his existence? Here we come across the other possible sense of existing, which perhaps makes this question ambiguous, since "to exist" may designate, in addition, the being that man has conquered by transcending and living. Then we would have to say that man is not his life, but rather that he lives in order to be. But, his being is in some way beyond his existence in the sense of "life." Even the Scholastic theologians said that "nature" is not the same thing as "underlying," and this is especially true in the case of "nature" and "person," even understanding by "nature" individual nature. Boethius defined that which underlies as: naturae completae individua substantia; a person would be the rational underlying thing. And the Scholastics added that both of these are found together in the relation of "that by which it is" (natura ut quo) and "that which is" (suppossitum ut quod). Thus says St. Augustine:

Verum haec quando in una sunt persona, sicut est homo, potest nobis quispiam dicere: tria ista, memoria, intellectus et amor, mea sunt, non sua; nec sibi sed mihi agunt quod agunt, immo ego per illa. Ego enim memini per memoriam, intelligo per intelligetiam, amo per amorem.... Ego per omnia illa tria memini, ego intelligo, ego diligo, qui nec memoria sum, nec intelligential nec dilectio sed haec habeo. (De Trinitate, lib. XV, c. 22)

Personality is the very being of man: actiones sunt suppositorum, because the underlying thing (suppositum) is who properly speaking "is." This question, admittedly transcendental, was considered to be a Byzantinism. And philosophy, from Descartes to Kant, rebuilt the lost road painfully and erroneously. Man appears in Descartes as a substance: res (without entering, for the rest, in the classical question, purely analogical, of the category of [325] substance); in the Critique of Pure Reason there is a distinction drawn between the res, as subject, and the pure ego, the "I." In the Critique of Practical Reason, the person is discovered beyond the "I"; for the Cartesian division between {370} thinking things and extended things Kant substituted the separation between persons and things. During the course of its history modern philosophy has traversed successively these three states: subject, I, person. But Kant leaves the question of what a person is rather obscure. To be sure, it is not just conscience of identity, as Locke claimed. It is something more. In the first place, it is to be sui juris, and this "being sui juris" is for Kant to be a categorical imperative. But not even with this did he arrive at the radical question about the person. One must fall back and proceed in a new way to the dimension, strictly ontological, in which Scholasticism moved during its last epoch in virtue of fecund theological necessities, which were unfortunately sterilized through pure polemic. But that would carry us too far afield. In what follows, the context will make clear the sense in which I employ the expression "existence."

It suffices, for the moment, to say that the person is the being of the man. The person finds himself implanted in being "in order to realize himself." This unity, radical and incommunicable, which is the person, is realized through the complexity of living. And living is living with things, with others and with ourselves, insofar as we are living things. Moreover this "with" is not a simple juxtaposition of person and life: the "with" is one of the formal ontological characters of the human person as such, and in virtue of this the life of every human being is, constitutively, "personal. " Every life, in virtue of being the life of a person, is constitutively a life, be it "impersonal," or "more or less personal," or "depersonalized"; which is to say that by which a man realizes himself as a person can, and in certain respects has to, obscure his personal being.

Granting this, perhaps it were superfluous to say that man finds himself implanted in being. In order not to lose myself in excessively prolonged explanations, I will take the liberty of making a concise enumeration of some propositions which I esteem fundamental. Nothing other than conciseness should be seen in their laconism. [326] {371}

1) Man already exists as a person, in the sense of being an entity whose entity consists in having to realize himself as a person, having to elaborate his personality in life.

2) Man finds himself sent to existence, or, better, existence is sent to him. This missive character, if I may be permitted the expression, is not just interior to life. Life, supposing it is lived, has an evident mission and destiny. But this is not the question: the question affects the underlying thing itself. It is not that life has a mission; but rather that it is a mission. Life, in its totality, is not a simple factum; the presumed facticity of existence is only a provisional denomination. Nor is existence merely a splendid possibility. It is something more. Man receives existence as something imposed upon him. Man is tied to life. But, as we shall see later, tied to life does not mean tied by life.

3) That which imposes existence upon him is what impels him to live. Man must, effectively, make himself among and with the things of the world, but he does not receive from these the impulse for life. He receives, at most, stimuli and possibilities for living.

4) That which impels him to live is not the natural tendency or inclination to life. It is something anterior. It is something on which man depends to exist, to make himself. Man not only has to make his being with things, but, for this, he finds himself dependent a tergo on something, from which life itself comes to him.

5) This dependence is not purely physical. It is a dependence in the sense that it is what supports us in existence; it is what makes us to be. Man not only is nothing without things, but, through himself, "isn’t." It is not sufficient for him to be able to and to have to make himself. He needs the strength to be making himself. He needs what will make him create himself. His ontological nihility is radical; not only is he nothing without things and without creating something with them, but moreover by himself he does not have the strength for the ongoing creation of himself, for arriving at being. {372}

6) It cannot be said that we ourselves are this force or strength. Although we are tied to life, nevertheless, it is not life which binds us. Being what is most ours, since it makes us to be, nevertheless it is in a certain respect the most other, since it makes us to be.

7) This is to say that man, upon existing, does not merely find himself with things which "are" and with which he has to create himself; but rather he finds himself with the "necessity" to make [327] himself and the necessity to be making himself always. Besides things, there "is" also that which makes man to be.

8) This making-there-to-be-existence is not revealed to us in a simple obligation to be. The presumed obligation is a consequence of something more radical: we are obliged to exist because previously we are relegated to what makes us exist. That ontological chain of the human being is "religation." In the obligation we are simply submitted to something which is either imposed upon us extrinsically, or which inclines us intrinsically, as the constitutive tendency of what we are. In religation we are more than subjected because we find ourselves linked to something which is not extrinsic, but which antecedently makes us to be. In cases of obligation, we go to something which will fulfill us in its accomplishment, or at least will be terminated or brought to perfection. In the case of religation, on the contrary, we do not "go to," but rather antecendently we "come from." It is, if one wishes, a "going," but a going which consists not in a "fulfilling," but rather in a doing homage to that from which we come, be it what it may. We "go" just insofar as we recognize that we "have come." In religation, more than the obligation to make or the respect of being (in the sense of dependency), there is a yielding of recognition in the face of that which "makes there to be. "

9) In virtue of this, religation is what makes real and evident to us what we may term, summarizing the previous discussion, the fundamentality of human existence. A fundament is, primarily, that which is root and support at the same time. Hence, "fundamentality" does not here have a meaning exclusively or primarily conceptual, but rather something much more radical. Nor is it simply {373} the mere cause of our being in one way or another, but rather of our being in being, if I may be pardoned the expression.

10) Now, to exist is to exist "with"—with things, with others, with ourselves. This "with" pertains to the very being of man; it is not something added to him. In existence everything else is enfolded with this peculiar form of "with." What relegates existence relegates along with it the entire world. Religation is not something which affects man exclusively, as opposed to everything else; but rather it affects everything the same way. Only in man is religation actualized formally; but in this formal actuality of human existence which is religation, everything, [328] including the material universe, appears as a field illuminated by light of the relegating fundamentality. It must be understood that the foregoing only means this field appears "illuminated." It means only that things appear organized in the perspective of the ultimate fundamentality. In no way does it imply anything other than that a contemplation of the world in light of this problem has been achieved.

Human existence, then, is not only thrown among things, but also relegated through its roots. Religtionreligatum esse, religio, religion, in its primary sense—is a dimension formally constitutive of existence. Therefore religation or religion is not something which one simply has or does not have. Man does not have religion, but rather, velis nolis, consists in religation or religion. Hence man can have, or equally not have, a religion, in the sense of positive religions. And, from the {373} Christian point of view, it is evident that only man is capable of Revelation, because only he consists in religation; religation is the ontological presupposition of all revelation.

The Scholastics were already speaking of a certain "natural religion". Religio naturalis, but they did not pay sufficient attention to the sense of the ‘natural’. Here the word ‘natural’ does not signify a natural inclination, but rather a formal dimension of the very being of man; something constitutive of him and not simply adventitious. Religation is not a dimension which pertains to the nature of man, but rather to his existence as a person, or if one wishes his personalized nature. We are relegated primarily, not insofar as we are endowed naturally with certain characteristics, but rather insofar as we are personal subsistent entities. Hence rather than speak of a natural religion, we might better speak of a personal religion. The fundamental character of our personality involves religation in a formal way. St. Bonaventure in fact made each person, even though finite, consist [329] in a relation; and he characterized that relation as a principium originate. For St. Bonaventure, a person carries within himself a relation of origin. Religation is not the principium originate, but it is the primary phenomenom in which this principium is actualized in our existence. Religion is not a property or a necessity; it is something distinct and superior: a formal dimension of the personal human being. Religion, as such, is not a simple sentiment, or a naked piece of knowledge, or an act of obedience, or a push to action; but rather actualization of the relegated being of man. In religion we do not antecedently feel any boost for working, but a fundament or ground for being. Therefore its "ultimation" or supreme expression is the "cult," in the widest and most integral sense of the word, not as a conjunction of rules, but as actualization of that "recognizing" or reverencing to which I alluded before.

11) And thus just as being open to things discovers to us, in this very being open, that "there are" things, similarly being relegated discovers to us that "there is" that which relegates, that which constitutes the {375} fundamental root of existence. Without further compromise, we can say provisionally that this is what we all designate by the word "God," that to which we are relegated in our entire being. However, God is not patent to us, but rather the deity. "Deity" is the name of broad area which reason must fix with more precision because we do not know by simple intuition what it is, or if it has effective existence as an entity. Through his religation, man sees himself forced to put into play his reason in order to clarify and justify the nature of God as reality. But reason could not do this if previously the ontological structure of the person, i.e. religation, had not placed the understanding, by the mere fact of existing personally and religatedly, in the realm of the deity. We shall return to this. Sight as such does not guarantee the reality of the determined object. But it opens before man the realm of the visible. Religation does not place us before the precise reality of a God, but it opens before us the realm of the deity, and places us constitutively in it. The deity is manifested to us as a simple correlate of religation; in religation we are "founded" and the deity is "that which founds," as such. Even the intent to deny all reality to that which founds (atheism) is metaphysically impossible without the realm of the deity: Atheism is a negative position before the deity.

Rather than "infinite ", " necessary" , " perfect," etc., which [330] just yet are excessively complicated ontological attributes, I believe I can dare to call God, as He is patent to man in his constitutive religation, ens fundamentale or fundamentante (with the reservation to explain myself below in regard to the expression ‘lens"). That which relegates us does so under this special form which consists in grounding us through making us to be. Hence, our existence has a fundament, in all of the many senses of this word. The primary attribute quoad nos of divinity is the fundamentality. However much we say of God, including His very negation (in atheism), supposes our having discovered this attribute in our relegated dimension.

In a certain way, then, just as the exteriority of things pertains to the very being of man, in the sense indicated above, i.e. without forming part of him, similarly the fundamentality of God "pertains" to the being of {376} man, not because God fundamentally forms part of our being, but because "being founded," being relegated, constitutes a formal part of our being. God is not at all subjective, and neither are external things. To exist is, in one of its dimensions, to be having already discovered God in our religation.

But, note, nevertheless, that exteriority and religation are, in a certain respect, of contrary sign. Man is open to things; he finds himself among them and with them. Therefore he goes toward them, sketching a world of possibilities of making something with these things. But man does not find himself thus with God. God is not a thing in this sense. Upon being relegated, man is not with God; he is rather in God. Neither does he go toward God, as it were sketching out something to do with Him; rather he is coming from God, "having to" make and make himself. For this reason every ulterior going toward God is a being carried by Him. In his openness before things, man encounters himself with things and is placed before them. In the openness which is religation, man is put in existence, implanted in being, as I said at the beginning, and put there as a coming "from." As an ontological dimension, religation makes patent the condition of a being, man, who is not and cannot be understood in himself, but only from outside himself.

"We move, live, and are in Him." And this "in" signifies: 1: Being relegated, and 2. Being so constitutively. As a problem, the problem of God is the problem of religation.

This is not a demonstration or anything resembling it, but an attempt to sketch the ontological analysis of one of our dimensions. [331] The problem of God is not a question which man sets himself as he can set himself a scientific question or one about life; that is to say, as something which in the final analysis can be or not be asked, according to the exigencies of life and the keeness of the understanding. Rather, this is a problem already planted in a man, by the mere fact of finding himself implanted in existence. Whence it is nothing other than a question about this mode of implantation.


[332] {377}





Since God is, then something which affects the very being of man, all discussions of the faculties which primarily carry us to Him are obviated. God is patent in the very being of man. Man need not come to God. Man consists in being in the process of coming from God, and, therefore, being in Him. The aspirations of the heart are by themselves a romantic inconstancy which will do us little good. Those sudden attacks or raptures directed toward the infinite, that religious sentimentality, are in the final analysis an index and an effect of something much deeper, namely the being of man in God.

In order to avoid all misunderstandings, I should add that the point of view which I here maintain has nothing to do with what was called in its time "philosophy of action." Action is something practical. Here I treat not of theory, nor of practice, nor of thought, nor of life, but rather of the being of man. That splendid and redoubtable book of Blondel, L’Action, would not achieve its marvelous intellectual efficacy otherwise than by translating the problem to the sphere of ontology. And I am inclined to believe that God is not primarily an "increment" necessary for action, but rather the "fundament" of existence, discovered as a problem in our very being, in its constitutive religation.

Nor in this regard is pure knowledge as such any more favorable, because there are two distinct dimensions of knowledge: the first is what is known effectively in the act of knowing; the second, {378} that which brings us to know. Man is brought to know through his own being. And precisely because his being is open and relegated, his existence is necessarily an intent to know things and God. This requires some special consideration.

But first an observation. I am not considering an experience of God. In reality there is no experience of God, for very basic reasons, namely those on account of which one cannot speak properly of an experience of reality. There is an experience of real [333] things; but the reality itself is not an object of one or many experiences. It is indeed something more: reality, in a certain sense, is being, insofar as being is being open to things. Neither is there properly an experience of God, as if He were a thing, a fact, or something similar. It too is something more. Human existence is a relegated and fundamental existence. The possession of existence is not an experience in any sense, and, therefore, is not an expression of God, either.

The presumed controversy between a so-called method of immanence and a method of transcendence has no meaning, because it makes no sense to need a method for arriving at God. God is not something which is in man as a part of him, nor is He something which is added to him, from outside; nor is He a state of conscience; nor is He an object. What of God there may be in many is only the religation through which we are open to Him, and in this religation God becomes patent to us. Hence one cannot, strictly speaking, talk of a relation with God. Or, if one wishes, every relation with God supposes that man consists in making things patent and in making God patent, although granting that the potencies are in different senses. There is, as I have indicated before and as we shall shortly see, an intellectual problem about God; but this does not mean either that the primary mode of making God patent is an act of knowledge or of any other faculty, or that the knowledge is a final reflection or a chimerical religious experience. We are not dealing with an act, but rather with the being of man.


[334] {379}





Man has among other things a capacity for knowing. The understanding knows if something is or is not; if it is in a certain manner or in another; why it is as it is and not another way. Understanding always moves in the "is." This has made it possible to think that the "is" is the primary form in which man enters into contact with things. But that goes too far. Upon knowing, man understands what there is, and he knows it as being. Things are then converted into entities. But being supposes always a "there is" (haber). It is possible then that they may coincide; thus, for example, for Parmenides, there is (haber) only what is (ser). But one cannot do what Parmenides himself did, viz. convert this coincidence into an identity between "is" (ser) and "there is" (haber), as if "thing" and "being" were synonymous.

And in fact Plato, following Democritus, foresaw that "there is" something which "is not, " in the sense of entity, that is, in the sense of the "thing which is," discovered to us by Parmenides. And Aristotle tried to show us something which "there is" and which is affected by the "is not," either because it supervenes on what properly "is," or because it "still is not," etc. If the Greek language had not possessed only one verb, the verb "to be," to express the two ideas of "is" (ser) and "there is" (haber)—and the same is true in Latin—the great paradoxes of ontology would have been notably clarified and simplified. The constraint of making use only of the "is" obliged Plato to affirm that what "is" also "is not." Perhaps one of the great discoveries of post-Eleatic philosophy could be described by saying that it tried to capture {380} from the point of view of being something which indisputably there is, but which is "of that which is not." [335]

Man understands, then, what there is, and he understands it as being. Being is always being of what there is. And this "there is" (haber) is constituted in the radical openness in which man is open to things and finds himself among them. And just as this finding of himself pertains to his being, likewise the intellection of things pertains to him, which is to say, understanding that they "are" (ser).

Within the orbit of being and, therefore, of understanding, in its broadest sense, we say that things are or are not. But we employ the term "to be" in many acceptations: this is a man, this is red, it is true that two and two are four, etc. Accordingly, since the time of Aristotle the question has been asked whether all such branches of knowledge about the being of things constitute a single science, a single branch of knowledge. And since Aristotle the response has been affirmative, that all these senses of the word "to be" have an analogical unity, which is based on the diverse manner in which all of them imply a single fundamental sense: being in the sense of a subsistent thing. The thing is, then, what properly "is," the entity properly so-called. Hence we have: 1. the entity simpliciter, the thing or substance; 2. Everything else which, in its diversity, likewise offers a diverse ratio entis, according as it may be in one or another way with respect to substance. In virtue of this the branches of knowledge about the being of things are a single science: the science of being as such, first philosophy or metaphysics. Philosophy is not, for Aristotle, a science of being, because he probably had not arrived at a concept of being. Philosophy is only a science of entities in their entitiness: to wit, in what measure they possess ratio entis.

As man is open "toward" things, the "being" which understanding understands primarily is the being of things. Aristotle limited himself to pointing this out. Nevertheless, philosophy should interpret this "fact."

Since antiquity it has been said that the primary suitable objects of understanding are external things. And it is necessary {381} to add that this suitability is based on the fact that human existence "consists," in one of its dimensions, in being open and hence constitutively directed toward things. Therefore all knowledge of itself is constitutively a return from things to itself. The greatest [336] difficulty connected with this knowledge stems from the necessary inadequation of the "is" of things, applied to that which is not a thing, viz. human existence. Hence, the "it itself" does not enter into that "is."

This makes it easy to see the point that ontological dialectic is not merely application of "a" concept already founded, the concept of being, to new objects. It is not clear that there is an "is" pure and abstract which is "one." For this reason, the dialectic of being is not a simple application or amplification of an idea of being to diverse regions of entitites, but rather a progression constitutive of the realm of being, made possible, at the same time, by the progressive discovery of new objects or regions, which oblige us to remake ab initio the very meaning of being, conserving it, but absorbing it into a superior unity.

If the idea of an analogy is to be maintained, it will be necessary to say that the analogy is not a simple formal correlation, but rather involves a determined direction: one leaves from the "is" of things to proceed in casu to the "is" of human existence, passing through the "is" of life, etc. As this "is" cannot be simply transferred to human existence from the material universe, the ontology of the former thus becomes absolutely problematic. But let us suppose the problem is now resolved. For this it will be necessary to return to the "is" of things in order to modify the problem, avoiding its circumscription of the physical world. Not only is the direction toward a new goal essential to the ontological dialectic, but so is this reversion to its first origin. And upon making the reversion, we see ourselves forced to operate freshly upon the "is" of things. That is to say, we are in the third moment, a moment of radicalization. The analogy is maintained in what is understood in the point of departure for modifying it. In what does this modification consist? It does not involve simply adding or deleting annotations, but rather of giving to the "is" a new meaning and a new variety of horizons which allow the new object to dwell in it. But then we will not merely have succeeded in discovering a new entity in its fullness of being, {382}but also a new ratio entis. And this we will do while still remaining in the [337] previous entity, but viewing it from a new perspective, in such a way that the last entity, which is what in the beginning presented itself to us as problematic, has now converted the first entity into a problem. The solution of the problem has consisted in maintaining the content of the concept, subsuming it under a new and fuller ratio. I believe this distinction between concept and ratio entis is essential. Amplifying the saying of Aristotle, one may affirm not only that being, in the conceptual sense, is spoken of in many ways; but that, before all else, the knowledge or explanation (ratio) of entity is spoken of in many ways. And this in such a radical way that it encompasses forms of the "is" no less true than that of the entity as such; mythology, technology, etc. also operate with objects that present, within these operations, their own ratio entis. Ontological dialectic is, before anything else, the dialectic of these rationes.

In our case, since things are seen from the point of view of human existence, we find ourselves compelled by this circumstance to conserve the "is" of them, eliminating nonetheless what is peculiar to "thingness" as such.

Now, understanding finds itself not only with the fact that "there are" things, but also with that other thing which "there is," that which relegates and founds existence: God. But it is a "there is" whose content is a problem. Through religation it is, then, possible and necessary at the same time to pose the intellectual problem of God. Not only has our analysis not eliminated the intellection of God or made it superfluous, but on the contrary has conduced inexorably to it, with all of its radical problematicism: it forces us, without remission, to pose for ourselves the problem of God.

But if, indeed, the return which carried us from things to an understanding of ourselves was radical, still more radical is that return in which, without stopping, we are carried to an understanding not of what "there is," but of what "makes that {383} there be." Every possibility of understanding God depends, then, on the possibility of quartering or lodging God in the "is." And here I do not mean simply an amplification of the "is" in order to have God dwell therein. The difficulty is much more fundamental. We do not know, in the first place, if this quartering is possible. And this is in a much more radical form than that having to do with human existence, because one always reads "is" in what "there is." And with all of its pecularities, human existence is of "what [338] there is." God, on the other hand, is not for a finite mind "what there is," but rather what "makes something to be." That is to say, there is not on one hand human existence and on the other God, and "then" one bridges the gap so that God turns out to be the one who makes there to be existence. No. The primary mode by which "there is" (if one desires to use the expression) God, for man, is grounding itself; or better, from the human point of view, deity is being in the process of grounding. Whence there arises a serious problem, that of the possibility of finding a sense of the "is" for God. That God has something to do with being is a consequence of the fact that the things that there are, are. But the problem is precisely that of determining in what this making there to be consists. There is no identification of the being of metaphysics with God. In God the "there is" surpasses infinitely with respect to the "is." God is beyond being. Prima rerum creatorum est esse, being is before created things, the medieval Platonists said. Esse formaliter non est in Deo ... nihil quod est in Deo habet rationem entis, being is not formally in God ... nothing which is in God has the form of being, repeated Master Eckhardt, and with him, all of the Christian mystics. When it has been said of God that He is the ipsum esse {384} subsistens, then perhaps we have said the most we can say and still understand what we are talking about; but even so we have not touched God in His Ultimate Divinity. I do not pretend to insinuate any vague mystical sentiment, but something perfectly understandable and concrete: God is knowable insofar as He can be "quartered" in being; He is [339] unknowable insofar as he cannot be treated as dwelling therein. The possible analogy or ontological unity between God and things has a sense radically different than the unity of being within the extra-divine ontology. At best one could speak of a supraanalogy. We do not know, in the first place, if God is an entity, and if He is, we do not know in what sense. Or better, we know that there is a God, but we are not acquainted with Him; such is the theological problem.

But this does not mean, I repeat, that we are dealing with a mere application or simple amplification of the concept of being. More is involved: the discovery of a new ratio entis, which causes everything to revert to problematic: things themselves, men, and the person himself. Whence the problem which God poses for us does not refer solely to Him, as if He were an entity juxtaposed and grouped with all the others, but rather it has to do with all the others, since in light of Him everything acquires a new meaning, without thereby ceasing to be what it was before.

Let us consider an example. For Aristotle, "substance" is being capable of existing separately. It is opposed, for example, to {385} "accident." What Aristotle understood by this sufficiency and this separation, if one wishes to give these words a positive content, is something which can only be understood when we contemplate how some things come to be from others, how they are subject to movement. The separation and sufficiency come into play integrally when, in the generation of things, they become sufficient unto themselves, with independence from their progenitors. Then we say that things properly begin to exist, they have their own consistency, they are substances. On the other hand, St. Thomas views things as emanating from God. He defines creation this way: emanatio totius esse a Deo. Things are here counterposed, above all, to nothingness, and that which is capable of receiving existence directly from God without the necessity of God producing or realizing it in a prior subject will henceforth be called a "substance." The Aristotelian idea of "sufficiency," even conserved in all its integrity, acquires a new meaning in light of the new ratio entis: it is a sufficiency in the order of inhesion, but [340] purely aptitudinal. (The confusion of these two points of view is manifested in the ontology of Spinoza, and leads him to pantheism.) The "is" of the physical world changes its meaning radically. For Aristotle it acquired a meaning precisely from the coming forth or out of; for St. Thomas, from the creation ex nihilo, i.e. from its God. We prescind in this from the special idea of God, proper to Christianity, and consider it only as an illustration of what we have been saying: viewed from God, the entire world acquires a new ratio entis, a new meaning of "is. " As soon as God becomes a problem, so also does the world.

Religated existence is a "vision" of God in the world and the world in God. Not certainly an intuitive vision, as ontologism pretended, but rather the simple patentization which occurs in the relegating fundamentality, and which illuminates everything with a new ratio entis. When we try to elevate it to a concept and give it ontological justification, then and only then—i.e. given the vision, likewise give the religation—do we see ourselves compelled to produce a discursive demonstration of the existence of God and of the attributes of God. Such a demonstration would never be the "primary" discovery of God. It would signify that, once discovered, God remains {386} linked to the world "by reason of being." The "making that there be" will have been poured and emptied into a concept of divine causality. But this will always be an ontological explication, accomplished within a prior vision of things: the vision conferred upon us by that primary linking through which everything is shown to us as relegated from God. Thus our analysis has not made the progress of the understanding toward God useless, but on the contrary has elicited it necessarily. Reciprocally, the fact that human understanding possesses the naked faculty of demonstrating the existence of God does in no way signify that discourse is the primary way of arriving intellectually at this conclusion. [341]

We do not prejudge by this what the result of such an inexorable intent to know God may be; we do not prejudge who God may be, where He may be found or what He does. That is, the problem of the nature of Divinity is left untouched, because I did not propose to treat of God, but rather to clarify the dimension in which the problem is found and is already posed: the constitutive religation of human existence. From the moment that understanding is always understanding what there is, it follows that every existence has a theological problem, and that as a result of this a theology is essential to every religion. Theology is not identified with religion, but neither is it a reflexive appendage, fortuitous and eventually merged with the religion: every religion constitutively involves a theology. I intend nothing more.


[342] {387}





Now it is necessary to examine the significance of atheism. But first it is appropriate to finish what has been said about religation, together with some considerations about freedom. And freedom can have several meanings.

Freedom can signify, in the first place, the use of freedom in life. We speak thus of an act which is free or not free.

But it can signify something deeper. Man is capable of using or not using his freedom, and indeed he may see himself partially or totally deprived of it, either through external or internal forces. But it would not make sense to say the same about a rock. Man is not distinguished from a rock insofar as he executes free actions of which the rock finds itself disenfranchised; the difference is more radical: human existence itself is freedom; to exist is to liberate oneself from things, and thanks to this liberation we can be turned to them and understand or modify them. Freedom signifies then liberation, liberated existence.

In religation, man does not have freedom in either of these two senses. From this point of view, religation is a limitation. But the use of freedom and liberation both emerge from the radical constitution, freedom is the implantation of man in being as a in being. And this implantation which constitutes him in being constitutes him in being free. Man is being free, in the fullest sense. Religation, through which man exists, confers upon him his freedom. Conversely, man acquires his freedom, he is constituted in being free, by religation. Religation then acquires a {388} positive meaning. As use of freedom, freedom is something interior to life; as liberation, it is the radical happening of life, it is the principle of existence, in the sense of transcendence and of life; as free constitution, freedom is the implanation of man in being as a person, and he is constituted thus where a person is constituted, in religation. Freedom is only possible as freedom "for," not just as freedom "from"; and in this sense, it is possible only as religation. Freedom does not exist except in an entity in the maximum fundamentality of his being. There is no "freedom" without "fundament." The ens fundamentale, God, is not an extrinsic limit to freedom, but rather this fundamentality confers upon man [343] his free being: first, in regard to the effective use of his freedom; second, in regard to liberation; third, because He constitutes man in being grounded: man exists, and His existence consists in making us to be freely. This is an essential structure into which it will be necessary to penetrate anew. Without religation and without that which relegates, freedom would be for man his maximum impotency and his radical despair. With religation and with God, his freedom is his maximum potential, so much so, that with it his very person is constituted, his very being, intimate and interior to him, before all else, including his very life.

Actions, in fact, are of subjects and in our case of persons. For this reason, man is not his existence, but rather existence is his. That which a man is does not consist in the course of his life, but in this "being his own." Speaking of the human subject, this "being his own" is something distinct toto caelo from the manner in which an attribute is the property of a substance. The "being his own" of man is something that, in a certain way, is in his hands, he may make use of it at will. Man is present at the passing of everything, even his own life; and his person "is" beyond the passing and remaining. In virtue of this, man can modify the "being his own" of life. He can, for example, "repent" and rectify his being, even to the extent of "converting it" into something else. He also has the possibility of pardoning his fellow man. Neither of these "phenomena" refers to life as such, but rather to the person. While life goes on and passes, man "is" what {389} remains to himself of "his own," after all that has happened to him has happened.

Thanks to this transcendence of the being of man with respect to his life, the person can turn against life and against himself. That which makes us to be free, makes us to be free, to be so truly, and hence, to act truly against ourselves. To the being of man the contra-being is essential. But the contra-being is rather a being contra or against; it supposes, then, religation. Man turns against himself insofar as he already exists. Through being religated, man as a person is in a certain respect an absolute subject, set free from his own life, from things, from everything else. Absolute in a certain sense, and also facing God, since he is indeed implanted in existence religatedly, he is as something whose "being here and now" is to be making itself, and therefore, as something [344] constitutively his own. In his primary religation, man acquires his freedom, his "relative absolute being," Absolute, because it is "his own"; relative, because it is acquired. {390}


[345] {391}





If this is so, if man is constitutively relegated, one should then ask what atheism is and how it is possible.

It is fitting to point out, at the beginning, that a true atheism is something difficult and subtle above all else. That which is usually called "atheism" generally consists of purely practical attitudes, and almost never the negation of a particular idea of God, for example that contained in the Christian creed. But, not believing in Christianity and, in general, not accepting a particular idea of God, is not rigorously atheism simpliciter.

That which must be clarified is what makes true atheism possible. Atheism is thus, in the first place, a problem, and not the primary situation of man. If man is constitutively relegated, the problem will not be in discovering God, but in the possibility of covering Him.

For this it is necessary to recall that man is a person, in a very radical sense; he is, but he cannot be without realizing a personality. This realization is brought to fruition in living. Whence in being a person is given the ontological possibility of "forgetting" religation and hence, of apparently losing the ground of his existence. "Apparently," because this loss is only the way in which the personality feels that which has been lost in the complexity of life. Personality as such is the maximum simplicity, but a simplicity which is conquered in the course of the complication of life. The tragedy of the personality is that, without living, it is impossible to be a person; one is a person in the measure that {392} he lives. But the more one lives the more difficult it is to be a person. Man has to oppose himself to the complication of his life in order to absorb it energetically in the superior simplicity of the person. Insofar as he is incapable of realizing this, he is likewise incapable of existing as a realized person. And insofar as one is lost in the complication of life, he is close to feeling himself "unbound" and to indentifying his being with his life. The [346] existence which feels itself "unbound" is an atheistic existence, an existence which has not reached the depths of itself. The possibility of atheism is the possibility of feeling "unbound." And what makes this feeling possible is the "sufficiency" of the person for making himself through the successful outcome of his efforts at living. The successful outcome of life is the great creator of atheism. The radical confidence, the trusting to one’s own abilities for living, and the "unbinding" oneself from everything are one and the same thing. Only a superior spirit can conserve itself relegated in the midst of the complicated efforts for being.

Thus "unbound" the person is implanted in himself in his life, and life acquires a character absolutely absolute. It is what St. John called, in a splendid phrase, the arrogance of life. Through this man finds himself in himself. Christian theology has always seen in pride the capital sin among all others; and the capital form of pride is atheism.

The possibility closest to the person, as such, is pride. In it the successful outcome of life obscures its proper fundament, and man "unbinds" himself from everything, implanting himself in himself. Parodying Heraclitus, one could say that it is pleasing to hide God. And Scripture reminds us that God resists the proud.

From this it follows that the fundamental form of atheism is the rebellion of life. Can this be called a true atheism? It is, in a certain way, in the sense which I just indicated. But in the final analysis, perhaps it isn’t. It is rather the divinization or deification of life. In reality, the proud person, rather than denying God, affirms that he is God, and that he is sufficient unto himself. But then, this is not properly denying God, but rather disputing over who it is that is God. Perhaps it may be said that there is someone who renounces {393} God this way, yet who does not admit the deification of life. But, whence does such an attitude receive its force and possibility except from this total power of denying, as a result of which the omnipotence itself of the negator and the negation are obscured. In atheism, to deny the deification of life is to expel life from itself and to remain alone, without one’s very life. Life has not been deified, but rather the person. The atheist, in one form or another, makes of himself a God. Atheism is not possible without a God; it is possible only in the compass of the deity opened up by religation. The human person, implanting himself in existence, chooses to do so by the capacity which he has, and which he believes in his being. He inscribes his being in the arena of the [347] deity—a much more eloquent testimony of what religatedly makes him to be. In his being "unbound" man is still made possible by God; he is in Him, under this paradoxical form, which consists in letting us be without making us question ourselves about Him, or as we say in English, being "God forsaken." Man cannot feet other than relegated, or better, "unbound." Hence man is radically relegated. His feeling himself "unbound" is already "being relegated."

For this reason there is no better way to come to realize the vanity or disfundamentation of pride than to witness the debacle of an existence which is relegated by its pure factum. I do not refer to those calamities which a man may suffer in his life, but to that calamity which, although not acquainted with "calamities," is a "calamity": the radical calamity of a life and of a person who have tried to substantiate themselves. In time, the life founded on itself appears internally disfounded and therefore referred to a fundament of which it sees itself deprived.

Cosmic anguish is not the deepest way to stumble upon nothingness and awake to being. There is another happening (let us call it that) even more radical: that which invades us when, face to face with the sudden death of a loved one, we say, "We are nothing." On the other hand, we feel the reality, the fundament of life, in those cases in which the one who dies does so making even death his very own, accepting it, as a just crown to his being, with the strength which comes to him from that to which he is relegated.

For this reason, true atheism can only cease to be not by ceasing to be true, but by obliging itself to be true to its {394} ultimate consequences. Without further ceremony, atheism will discover itself being atheist in and with God. The calamity which constitutively follows us assures us always of the possibility of a rediscovery of God.

This pride of life has clothed itself in various forms. Man possesses a life, and there is in human life, as such, the possibility of contenting oneself exhaustively in oneself. In one form or another, this will lead us to an atheism deriving from a pecatum originale. But man, besides having life, is a person and has, [348] therefore, the greatest possibility of implanting himself in himself. This will carry us to a personal atheism, to a pecatum personale. But, in addition, man has history, an objective spirit, as Hegel called it. Along with original sin and personal sin, it will be necessary to thematically introduce into theology the sin of the time, historical sin. It is the "power of sin," as a theological factor of history, and I believe it is essential to suggest that this power receives concrete forms according to the times. The world in each epoch will be characterized by particular graces and sins. It is not necessary that a person have the sin of the times; nor if he has it, that it be imputed to him personally. So then, I believe sincerely that there is an atheism of history. The present time is a time of atheism; it is an epoch proud of its accomplishments. Atheism today affects, primo et per se, our time and our world. Those who are not atheists, are {395} what they are despite our time, as the atheists of other epochs were so despite theirs. Our epoch is rich in this type of lives, exemplary models under all points of view, but before which always arises an ultimate reply: "Well, and so what?"; magnificent existences, of splendid figure, liberated from everything, errant and wandering.... As an epoch, our is one of "unbinding" and disfundamentation. For this reason, the religious problem of today is not a problem of differing faiths, but the problem religion-irreligion. And, naturally, we cannot forget that we live in the epoch of the crisis of intimacy.

But since this cannot be a terminal position, man has called upon all types of supports. Today it seems as though it is philosophy’s turn. For more than two centuries the philosophy of the atheist has been converted into a religion of his life. And today we are half convinced that philosophy is this. But still I am unable to share such an opinion. It is possible that man lays hold of philosophy in order to be able to live; it is possible that philosophy [349] may be even a hexis of intelligence; but it is a very different thing to believe that philosophy consists in being a mode of life. At the bottom of a great part of contemporary philosophy lies a surreptitious deification of existence.

Probably it is necessary to investigate experience even more carefully. Surely the hour will come when man, in his intimate and radical downfall, will awake as if from a dream finding himself in God and failing into the realization that in his atheism he has done nothing but be in God. Then he will encounter himself relegated to Him, not so as to flee from the world, and others, and himself; {396} but the other way around, in order to sustain and maintain himself in being. God does not manifest Himself primarily as negation, but as fundamentation, as what makes it possible to exist. Religation is the possibilitation of existence as such.


[350] {397}





I wish to conclude this brief essay.

In it I have not given a rational demonstration of the existence of God. I have not even presented a concept of God. I have done nothing but try to discover the point at which the problem of God arises and the dimension in which we find it: the constitutive and ontological religation of existence. Now questions galore should begin to arise. If so, that would demonstrate the utility of this short essay.

Is there a problem for philosophy? Evidently. But it remains to be said in what sense it is, and furthermore not everything said up to now pertains equally to philosophy. The problem of God might, in the last analysis, overflow pure philosophy. This could only be elucidated with an adequate concept of philosophy. But that is a task much more complicated than the one which I have here set myself.


Madrid, December 1935, and Rome, March 1936